The nutritional supplement retailer GNC purchased a 30-second ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl LI broadcast on Fox, but the ad was rejected by the NFL and will not air.
According to Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, the ad was pulled by the league after questions about the league’s policy on banned substances — specifically a memo distributed by the league and players union which lists GNC under “prohibited companies.” In the memo, players were warned not to endorse or have a business relationship with the company because it has been “associated with the production, manufacture or distribution of NFL banned substances.”
NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said the union wrote a letter to the league voicing concerns about the ad, and the fact it was being placed in the league’s highest-rated product.
“We have told FOX it may not air in Super Bowl or any NFL programming,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
Fox declined comment, while GNC said it was surprised to learn Monday the nearly $5 million spot would not air.
“We sent the spot to Fox on Thursday one last time, and they cleared it,” said GNC executive vice president Jeff Hennion. “Then Friday evening they called and said the NFL had an issue with the logo. We spent the weekend working through alternatives.
“And then at 1 o’clock [Monday] we were notified by Fox that the NFL had rejected us, our commercial and rejected us as an advertiser in the Super Bowl. And that was the first we had heard there was any concern with GNC’s participation.”
Hennion acknowledged the chain sells products with two ingredients on the NFL’s list of more than 100 banned substances: DHEA, an anabolic agent, and the stimulant synephrine. But he said products containing those ingredients comprise less than 3 percent of their sales.
Considering the problem some players have with banned substances, it’s a wonder GNC ever got this far in their quest to advertise during the Super Bowl. It’s also fair to wonder whether that problem is worse than the ones created by the beer which is so freely marketed, branded and deemed official by the NFL.